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I Stopped Fearing God When I Learned of True Forgiveness

I Stopped Fearing God When I Learned of True Forgiveness

I grew up in a very strict, religious family. My dad was raised by a military man, and my mom by a police officer. And whether we like to admit it or not, our upbringing molds us into the people we become.

As one of the older children in my family – mistakes were not an option for me. I was to be disciplined, flawless, and an example to my siblings. I was taught that whatever I did, my siblings would do. If I messed up, it was the worst thing I could do and there was no coming back from that. I was scared into repentance and never making the mistake again. And if I did, I was going to hell. This was what my parents were taught growing up, and what they in turn taught me. And I was scared.

I was scared of God. I was scared for my salvation. And I was definitely scared of making any mistakes.

And this mindset carried through into adulthood. When I met my husband, one of the questions he asked me about myself was, “What’s your biggest fear?” Which seemed innocent enough. He told me he was scared of spiders, and my response in turn was, “damnation”. Little did I know that this fear would hinder me greatly.

One of my favorite scriptures is 1 John 4:18: There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.

God’s love should cast out fear, but I was living in fear. I was living in torment. I would nitpick every mistake I made and obsessed over making amends and asking others’ forgiveness so that I could be in the clear and be safe from damnation. I would obsess over every little mistake I ever made as a child, and many I couldn’t change or make right.

I started to develop a type of ‘Religious OCD’ and it became crippling. Fear-based thoughts would envelop my brain constantly. That’s when I realized I needed help. I was recommended a book called ‘How to Stop Worrying and Start Living’ by Dale Carnegie.

One of the quotes that stood out to me the most was this one: “Let’s not allow ourselves to be upset by small things we should despise and forget.”

This quote impacted me greatly. It helped me realize that I couldn’t fix everything. I had made mistakes and sometimes they couldn’t be fixed. I had to rely on Jesus Christ and His Atonement to make up the difference. I found so much peace in that knowledge.

I went through a journey of learning about God’s love through the scriptures and books that talk about His nature and love. And the book that helped me the most was ‘Total Forgiveness’ by R.T. Kendall. This book changed my life. A couple quotes of his helped me understand our Heavenly Father more fully. One reads:

“God only uses guilt to get our attention. When we say “I’m sorry,” and mean it, that’s enough for God. He doesn’t beat us black and blue and require us to go on a thirty-day fast to supplement Christ’s atonement. He convicts us of sin to get our attention, but having done that, He wants us to move forward.”

Everything in regards to God and The Atonement of Jesus Christ that I had been taught was wrong. I was taught to fear God in the literal sense. That was incorrect. He wants us to respect and love Him, but by not moving past our mistakes and growing from them we are not taking full advantage of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

forgiveness

It took me a while to grasp that concept. I didn’t need to be afraid and constantly punish myself for my past mistakes. I would still experience anxiety and depression about the concept of “making too many mistakes” to return to Him.

One night I started to pray, pleading for peace and forgiveness. I needed to know I had been forgiven. I needed to know I was okay. I needed to know I was not going to be damned. Shortly after my prayer, I felt a peace that I had only felt a couple times in my life.

I had felt the Holy Ghost throughout my life, but very sporadically, and so subtly that I would question if it had really been the Holy Ghost. I would think I was making it up in my head. But this time was different. The feeling lingered and wouldn’t go away however much I tried to push it away through my excuses of “I’m making this up in my head”. It stayed. It’s like God knew me perfectly and knew that I needed a lingering manifestation of His love.

As this peace started enveloping my chest, I heard a voice. It sounded like my own voice saying, “You’re forgiven. It’s time to move on.” It was so powerful. It felt like God speaking to me through the Holy Ghost, and through myself. I finally felt peace. I finally understood His love for me and that the atonement had been successful in my life.

I’ll end on this my last, and favorite quote from ‘Total Forgiveness.’

“Moses had a past. He was a murderer. But years later he would proclaim the eighth commandment: you shall not murder. David had a past, but he also had a future after his shame. Jonah deliberately ran from God, but he was still used in an astonishing revival. Peter’s disgrace –denying Jesus– did not abort God’s plan for him. But all these men had to forgive themselves before they could move into the ministry God had planned for them.”

This phrase shows just how important forgiving ourselves is. God doesn’t give only the perfect people grace, grace wouldn’t be needed if everyone was perfect. Some of his greatest servants were the greatest sinners. He wants us to utilize the atonement. Learn from our mistakes. Receive the gift of forgiveness and let the past be in the past so we can move into our purpose in this life. I can’t wait to fulfill my divine purpose.

My whole life I was living in fear. Little did I know that God didn’t want me to be afraid all the time. Our upbringing molds us into the people we are. But it’s up to us to continue that progression and to mold ourselves into the people we can truly become through God’s divine guidance and forgiveness.